Jacinda Ardern admits Government could have handled Māori vaccination better

The Prime Minister has admitted she may have taken too long to recognise that eliminating the Delta variant was impossible.

Jacinda Ardern also acknowledged the Government didn't break down the barriers that slowed Māori vaccination.

In a candid interview, she said goodbye to a year she described as "awful".

"Awful" was the single word Ardern needed to sum up 2021.

Aucklanders also have a word: "Lockdown", and that's where the Prime Minister's hairdresser is.

"I haven't cut my hair in five months," Ardern says.

Just as we rejoiced to see the back of 2020 - this year it's good riddance to 2021.

"Cast forward to 2022 I'm going to say I have cautious optimism," Ardern says.

But as we peek into the future it looks depressingly like the past. Ardern says it is "inevitable" that Omicron will come to New Zealand.

The concerning COVID variant may be inevitable, but future lockdowns are not.

"There's no evidence that we would need to change the system we have here," Ardern says.

But that doesn't mean the COVID crisis is over.

"We need to be prepared for future pandemics. There will be future pandemics," Ardern says.

The Government's been criticised for being slow to act. It was ill-prepared for Delta - but still staunchly defends its response.

"Look I admit when I get things could be better all the time," Ardern

And, finally admitting that Māori faced unnecessary barriers in the vaccination campaign.

"I often think about what we could have done earlier on to support our Māori providers better and I think we could have done a better job earlier on and I think they hit some brick walls earlier on that I would have liked to have dealt with better."

And that perhaps Ardern found it difficult to admit to herself that elimination was over.

"I probably have to think about that," Ardern says. "Maybe, but it's not something that you want to give up on. We did give it everything we had."

She'll have to give this everything she has too - a new opponent in Christopher Luxon, real competition on the Opposition.

But Ardern says she isn't spooked by him and laughed at the idea she would be. She's unphased by Luxon or jitters about impending nuptials in a COVID wedding season like no other.

"I don't think I'm someone who will experience jitters per se. We've been together for years, we have a home and a child. For me this is something to formalise what we already have."

Here's to 2022 - it had better be better.